I was 55 when my father died and left me his house in Florida. I could retire if I wanted to. And I wanted to. Although I loved teaching– I was a community college English professor–pain sapped my energy. My hands hurt so much I literally could not hold on to anything for long. I dropped chalk at the blackboard. My back ached with the weight
of only a few books– and books were what I did! I was stressed out and feeling “old”. Anyway, not “young.”
Now I am 76. Decidedly not stressed out, I have my grip back, and most of the time I feel no pain. I feel better, younger, that I did at 55. It was not the sunshine and sea air that did it. (Well, not entirely.)
It was yoga. I took my first yoga class at 55. I felt to much better afterwards that I went back twice a week. My hands loosened up, the crackles left my neck, my hips opened up (and slimmed down), and I even touched my toes. I began a new career: teaching yoga and practicing yoga therapy. I opened a school in the sunshine, SKY Yoga. It is still there, directed by a wonderful teacher I trained and certified. In time I left Florida– it was very hot, expensive, and filling up with houses fewer and fewer people lived in year round. I followed my dream of living in the mountains of North Carolina. I built a house where I couldn’t see my neighbors for the trees.
I continued to study yoga, on my own and formally. I went to Duke medical school to learn more about yoga and ageing, and yoga therapy as an alternative to medical practices that do not seem to get ageing. Just the opposite: most dis-eases associated with ageing are not; furthermore, they are conditions better treated with breath, movement, and meditation at any age than with drugs and surgery.
At the senior center where I teach, students sometimes say I am an inspiration, that they want to be just like me. That is, fit, happy, attractive, and older than I seem. For awhile, I was the oldest yoga teacher I knew. I have met a teacher who is my inspiration– she is in her late 90s. She is an inspiration. I want to be just like her. (Google: Tao Porchon-Lynch.)
Age? Youth? In yoga that’s beside the point. Yoga is instead about living well, yes, and long, of course, and ageing well. It is about waking up to a day as good as or better than any other you have ever spent. A little stiff? That eases once the body starts moving– certain special movements help considerably even with those dis-eases associated with ageing that younger folks share, especially arthritis, for instance. Energy lifts when you remember to breathe fully, using your diaphragm (you probably started suppressing it as a teenager). You meet the day with heightened awareness of life’s gifts, great and small, especially if you practice a bit of meditation. You treat people well because you remember we are all one. One.
– Kitty Owens
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